Michael D. Moberly April 12, 2014 ‘A long form blog where attention span really matters’.
Often, the unrecognized and under-valued intellectual and structural capital initiators to intellectual property rich corporate – university R&D collaborations are the numerous intangible asset underliers, i.e., intellectual and structural capital which inevitably play a significant role in an invention and/or technology transfer initiatives, in general.
But, when the stewardship, oversight, and management of an invention’s (IP’s) contributing – supporting intangible assets are neither acknowledged nor safeguarded, at the outset, those asset’s value, competitive advantages, value, and sources of revenue which they may have the potential for producing for their holder can quickly be undermined, substantially diminished, or even ’go to zero’!
To avoid or substantially mitigate the vulnerability, probability, and criticality which such asset risks will materialize, I find a quick, but effective, project-wide (self-) assessment is useful. The assessment consists of eight managerially focused questions with each designed to respectfully influence R&D project leaders, inventors, researchers, and technology transfer – commercialization teams to genuinely reflect on how, whether, and to what degree the key – relevant intangible asset initiators have, thus far, been managed, utilized, and safeguarded.
Admittedly, a rather transparent agenda to this assessment is elevating (managerial) awareness and operational familiarity with the economic fact that 80+% of most invention’s, and eventually startup and/or spin-off company’s value, projected sources of revenue, and ‘building blocks’ for successful (asset) commercialization evolve directly from the initiating – supporting (underlying) intangible assets, not IP per se.
An unfortunate, but persistent reality (risk) is that intangible assets can quickly become mired in costly, time consuming, and momentum stifling challenges and disputes or become subject to misappropriation or infringement if left unacknowledged, or negligently meld into the public domain – open sources. As suggested, when either occurs, the asset commercialization potential (of these intangible assets, including the IP itself) can be irreversibly lost or, at minimum, severely obstructed in their contributory role.
I routinely find clients can complete this assessment in 7-10 minutes. Readers are encouraged to not infer the speed in which the assessment can be completed and its brevity, i.e., seven questions minimizes its significance and benefits. In framing this (self-) assessment I recognize that more comprehensive assessments do not necessarily produce – influence superior or more genuine (personal) reflection that translates to action and more profitable outcomes, particularly with respect to the oversight, management, and status of the key (most critical and contributing) intangible assets. Too, I am respectfully, and humbly confident the assessment itself, as well as each of the nine questions can echo throughout an enterprise to the point they become routine discussion and action items in conference rooms, board rooms, technology transfer offices, and particularly amongst the scientists, researchers, and inventors who stand to benefit from effective and consistent stewardship, oversight, and management of the research they initiated.
Seven critical questions affecting invention commercialization outcomes…
As corporate – university R&D project management teams engage the assessment questions below they are encouraged to recognize that intangible assets, primarily in the form of intellectual and structural capital are not always specific to a single invention. Instead, they may ultimately become initiators – underliers to other projects as well as being integral to most every stage of the instant invention process, i.e., at the (a.) idea formation stage, (b.) invention and product development stage, and (c.) commercialization (technology transfer) stage.
- Are intangible assets consistent discussion (action) items in management team meetings?
- Can research project management teams and the relevant inventors distinguish – or find consensus about the specific intangible asset(s), i.e., intellectual, structural capital, emanating from the initial research, and now have measurable contributory value to the product being proposed for commercialization to create sources of revenue, competitive advantages, reputation, market space, etc.?
- Are project managers – management teams maintaining an inventory (audit) of the contributing (underlying, supporting) intangible assets that emanate from and/or drive the invention/commercialization process? If so, are those processes being regularly re-assessed, updated?
- Do the inventory-audit updates specifically include an assessment of how, whether, or which intangible assets sustain value, materiality, relevance, and mitigate risks to the invention itself, the commercialization process, and the inevitable spin-off – startup company’s core mission and strategic planning?
- Have invention commercialization project managers identified which (contributing) intangible assets hold the highest probability for investor attractivity, value, and sustainability, price points, fees, royalties, etc., if they were sold, licensed, or used in a strategic alliance and/or joint venture?
- Have invention commercialization project managers and inventors identified which invention relevant intangible assets, particularly intellectual and structural capital are most vulnerable to risk, e.g., pre and post commercialization, technology transfer, and business transaction to infringement, misappropriation, premature leakage, counterfeiting, etc.?
- Have invention commercialization project managers implemented an organizational resilience (continuity – contingency) plan that specifically includes (a.) contributory intangible asset risk/threat mitigation, and (b.) rapid recovery from the adverse impact of materialized risk(s)?
In sum, are there processes – procedures in place, with respect to the invention commercialization process to…
- ensure mission critical (intangible) assets hold (their) value, deliver revenue, or remains relevant to the spin-off company’s core mission and strategic plan, and
- remain aligned with the development and/or acquisition of additional intangible assets necessary to achieve the inevitable spin-off company’s core mission, and strategic (market) planning?
- identify who is responsible and how will such responsibilities will be executed regarding the on-going management, monitoring and measurement of intangible asset performance relative to sustaining – enhancing company value, sources of revenue, competitive advantages, reputation, etc.
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